Pro Sound News Europe’s email newsletter reflects on the defining stories of the last four years in the company of leading manufacturers, writes David Davies.
Ongoing migration to digital; a profound change in the live sector’s deployment of wireless systems; and the most severe economic downturn since the 1940s... These are just three of the issues to have dominated the news agenda during the first 200 issues of PSN-e.
Introduced in 2006 as an electronic adjunct to the Pro Sound News Europe print publication, PSN-e has gone to break numerous major industry stories as well as becoming the first in a series of successful PSNE-related electronic newsletters.
The rise of line array systems and digital console technology for live audio was already apparent when the first PSN-e was distributed, and indeed these trends have only intensified in the ensuing years. The paradigm shift in the studio world was arguably less well-advertised, but nonetheless equally significant; as major commercial studios suffered, more and more producers and artists began to develop high-spec private facilities that were primarily reserved for their own projects.
It is no hype to claim that the speed of change has increased in the last two years. At present, the agenda is dominated by networking for both live and studio applications, and the general shift away from proprietary solutions towards universally accepted standards. For example, many leading manufacturers have signed up to AVB (Audio/Video Bridging)-promoting organisation the AVnu Alliance, although it’s probably safe to say that full networking as a default choice is still some years away.
There is no denying that the recession has cast a long shadow over the last two years, influencing a certain amount of vertical integration in the sector as well as increased pressure on operating costs for all concerned.
“The recession, of course, has curtailed spending for many music and post production professionals, forcing many folks out of the studio and into a freelance/home studio set-up where they must frequently make cost v. value decisions on audio equipment,” Avid professional segment marketing manager Tony Cariddi tells PSN-e. “At the same time, the growing popularity of cheaper, yet adequate, recording and editing systems has made it possible for beginning to intermediate audio enthusiasts to create music, which has fundamentally altered the competitive landscape. And of course, the increased processing power of laptops and mobile phones—and the advent of devices like the iPad—are making mobile music creation and production a reality for the first time, which has put pressure on manufacturers to develop portable audio creation and recording solutions that allow audio professionals to work and collaborate anytime, anywhere.”
The live arena has arguably proven less immune to the effects of the downturn (for more, see the latest edition of PSNLive here), although there were some notable US tour cancellations during summer 2010. But for European users, the advent of wholescale spectrum reallocation has proven to be an enduring headache; in many territories, the future spectrum map is still uncertain, while rental companies face the prospect of significant investment in new equipment – even in those countries, such as the UK, where (partial) financial assistance packages have been devised. Moreover, the recently announced white space device consultation could yield another worrying period for the UK PMSE community.
“This definitely isn’t over,” Sennheiser UK business development specialist and BEIRG Pro User Group prime mover Alan March told me recently. “The pressure on UHF spectrum is relentless – and it will continue.”
Ireland’s descent into severe economic crisis at the time of writing means that, when it comes to firm predictions for 2011, all bets are off: further countries in the Eurozone could also be required to seek loans from the EU and IMF, the potential impact of which on neighbouring countries doesn’t really bear contemplating.
More imminently, the industry will need to get to grips with “the continuing low number of major new projects starting up in the installation market,” says Cadac director of sales Bob Thomas (pictured). “These are by their nature long-term and it’s going to leave a significant gap in the pipeline, which will be a concern for a considerable time to come.”
From Cariddi, there is an expectation that pro-audio “will see more of the same – increased pressure to do more with less and continued competition from the aspiring audio enthusiast”.
But what of the technologies that will define the next few years? The advent of more distribution/networking solutions seems like a given – the last few months alone have seen the arrival of Yamaha’s UNiON and ALC NetworX’s RAVENNA – but it seems that we will also have to accommodate continued interdependence with the CE market.
“Life cycle on components is continuing to shorten, particularly microprocessors, LEDs, and even something as lowly as a connector. As the industry continues its dependence on technologies shared with the consumer market, this becomes an increasing problem,” says Thomas.
Whilst unable to comment on Avid’s plans specifically, Cariddi expects that customers “will continue to see the creation of more open technology that enables them to mix and match solutions to create the workflow that best suits their needs. This mixing and matching of technology will extend beyond music creation and recording to live sound and even video, as multimedia events increase in popularity. Additionally, I think technology solutions will become increasingly mobile, which will, in turn, drive development of cloud-based editing and production services, enabling customers to work and collaborate with their colleagues anytime, anywhere.”
From the cloud of recession to, well, the Cloud – it’s certainly been an eventful few years. Whatever the future brings, PSN-e will be there to bring you news of the latest business and application stories from the live and studio worlds, as well as exclusives on emerging technologies. To sign up for the weekly newsletter, and others in the PSNE stable, click here.